Sustainable Choices: Green Keeps Growing

Products like cork and coconut shell fiber are not only trendy design products, they're also environmentally friendly.

From Disaster, Art: Designer Jana Manning displays a one-of-a-kind wall hanging created by Ocean Grove artist Roddy Wildeman from wood scraps he salvaged after Hurricane Sandy.
Photo by Joe Polillio

Environmentally friendly, sustainable products continue to grow by leaps and bounds. One trendy choice is cork, used for floors, walls and even fabrics. “Cork needs its own award,” said designer Wendy Cruz-Gonzalez. “It comes in so many different patterns and colors.” It’s rapidly renewable, water repellent, nontoxic and easy to clean, while being durable, resilient and soft underfoot. “Cork is making a huge impact in interiors,” said Cruz-Gonzalez. One of her favorites? Heirloom Cork Flooring from Expanko.

Cork isn’t the only sustainable material that gets Cruz-Gonzalez fired up; she introduced the group to PaperStone recycled paper, an entirely new green-product category. Made of 100 percent recycled paper hardened with resins and saturated with natural pigments, PaperStone can be used for a variety of applications, including countertops, furniture and vertical panels.

Another newer entry in the sustainable category is wall-covering made from bark. Designer Sandy Lambert showed off a sample of handmade bark-skin paper that resembled a spiderweb. On one project, Lambert used it as a ceiling accent. “You could have a faux finisher do a treatment, or you could do this,” she said. Check out

Coconut-shell fiber is perhaps the newest entry in eco-friendly fabrics. Known as coir, these fabrics are often blended with polyester to make lightweight, durable bedding materials. “It feels like a sateen,” said designer Diane Boyer, who has used the fabrics from bedding company Standard Fiber in damp areas. “It’s got great properties for places with humidity. It doesn’t attract mold,” she said. That’s because the fibers absorb moisture quickly; they also absorb odors.

No discussion of green products would be complete without mentioning energy-efficient lighting. Designer Jana Manning is wild about Edge Lighting’s tiny LED strips. “These are beautiful little LED strips with no hot spots,” she said. “They’re so low profile, you don’t need a big space to adhere it.” Essentially a self-adhesive strip of tape, the lights can be used to illuminate under cabinets, in a cove or along bookshelves, or they can serve as backlighting. “They add a nice ambience,” she said. Edge Lighting is available at Warshauer Electric in Tinton Falls and other lighting and hardware stores.

Manning also broke out a large-scale, one-of-a-kind art object made from wood salvaged from Jersey Shore structures damaged by Hurricane Sandy. “This piece of art represents the concept of sustainability,” she said. “It’s re-using, re-purposing, recycling. It’s an aesthetic movement; these products have history, they have a patina.” The piece was created by Ocean Grove artist Roddy Wildeman, whose work was featured in the May 2013 issue of New Jersey Monthly.

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